A moment of ingenuity from Shinji Okazaki was enough for Leicester City to claim a 1-0 win over Newcastle United at the King Power Stadium on Monday.
- Leicester City 1 Newcastle United 0
- Okazaki nets bicycle kick
- Benitez loses his first game in charge
- Leicester go five points clear
New Magpies boss Rafa Benitez would have been happy with what he saw from his team in the opening stages, but Newcastle were behind just 25 minutes into his reign when Shinji Okazaki pulled of a stylish overhead kick to put the Foxes 1-0 up at half time.
Newcastle worked hard for an equaliser in the second half, but the Foxes, despite not being at their best, were able to hold on for a hard-fought three points that keeps them five points clear of Spurs at the top of the Premier League standings.
Despite Leicester being the strong favourites, the first chance of the match fell to Newcastle when Giorgino Wijnaldum worked his way into the box and the ball fell to Ayoze Perez, whose shot flew wide of goal.
The next good chance fell to Moussa Sissoko, who couldn’t quite get a proper header on an inviting cross from marauding right-back Daryl Janmaat, marking a bright opening quarter of an hour for new manager Rafa Benitez.
But the Magpies were behind after 24 minutes despite their strong start thanks to a moment of magic from Shinji Okazaki.
Christian Fuchs whipped in a free kick from deep that caused all sorts of trouble for Newcastle when it was recycled by Marc Albrighton, allowing the Japan international to meet Jamie Vardy’s header with a well-taken bicycle kick.
27 – Leicester City have scored in 27 Premier League games this season, more often than any other team. Relentless.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 14, 2016
It was almost two-nil to the Foxes soon afterwards when Marc Albrighton had a run at Steven Taylor, who backed off enough to allow the winger space to try to curl one in, but it was narrowly wide.
Newcastle were taking the game towards their hosts in the second period as they looked for an equaliser, but would rarely threaten Leicester’s lead, with Sissoko failing to find a teammate in one of their more-promising situations, before laying it off for Perez blast narrowly wide thanks to slight deflection.
The next chance also fell to Sissoko when a cross from Andros Townsend was cleared by Wes Morgan straight into the Frenchman’s path, but his shot was blocked by Morgan, possibly with his arm, which was the subject of a penalty appeal from the desperate Magpies. Nothing given.
Newcastle continued to search for a point, but Leicester put in a good shift to defend their lead and take another step towards the Premier League trophy.
The Magpies remain in the relegation zone as a result, but they still have a game in hand over Norwich and Sunderland who are just a point ahead, with the Black Cats occupying the final position of safety. Next u for Newcastle is a a must-win north East derby against Sunderland on Sunday.
Leicester are five points clear of second-placed Tottenham, and face Crystal Palace on Saturday.